The importance of sustainability has long been recognised by the audiovisual industry. In 2020, the Finnish Film Foundation (SES) surveyed environmental attitudes and measures in film and TV production companies. Almost 90% of the respondents to this survey identified environmental responsibility as a value of their company.

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Mon Aug 1st, 2022 at 3:54pm

According to the Sustainable Production Alliance’s study “Close Up: Carbon Emissions of Film and Television Production”, the carbon emissions of the film and television production companies surveyed varied depending on a number of factors. A total of 161 feature-length films and 266 television series were surveyed between 2016 and 2019.

The carbon emissions of a single big-budget film can be as high as 1.081 million kilograms, according to the study. A medium-budget film, on the other hand, emits around 0.75 million kilograms and a low-budget film 0.39 million kilograms.

For TV series, the carbon emissions for a one-hour episode were 0.77 million kilos. A half-hour episode emitted just under a third, around 0.26 million kilos. The study took into account all direct emissions from sources such as fuel, electricity consumption, flying and accommodation. Fuel was typically the largest contributor to emissions, accounting for between 48% and 56%.

Estimating carbon emissions is nearly impossible without a proper tool

When comparing the figures with other carbon emitting sectors, the audiovisual (AV) sector has a significant carbon footprint. For example, the total carbon emissions of Finnish households in 2019 were around 54.9 million kilograms. Calculated per person, the average emissions in Finland were around 9,950 kilograms, which roughly translates into the equivalent of the carbon emissions of around 26 Finnish households from the production of a half-hour episode.

On the other hand, the production of one medium-length film produces the same annual carbon emissions of 75 Finnish households. It is also wild to estimate that the carbon emissions of a big budget film are even about half of the annual emissions from waste disposal in Finland.

However, it is difficult to estimate the direct carbon emissions and carbon footprint of the Finnish audiovisual industry without an effective metric and strategy. Furthermore, it goes without saying that at a global level, the carbon budgets of the carbon offset sector are larger than those of our country, so the above comparisons are only indicative. However, in 2021, Audiovisual Producers Finland ry (APFI) launched a project to provide a carbon footprint calculator for film production.

In the Sustainable Production Alliance's study, the largest carbon emissions came from large-scale film production.

Finnish audiovisual production has in many respects already moved away from a single-use culture towards more sustainable alternatives. The sector is also used to limited budgets and circular economy principles: many productions are carried out by borrowing and renting expertise, equipment and facilities.

The environmental impact of production can be calculated, for example, by the number and quality of vehicles used and amount of fuel, the amount of waste generated, the amount of food and food waste purchased, the amount of disposable products, and the cost of electricity and heating. It is hoped that the APFI carbon footprint calculator will provide answers to these questions.

Technology and digitalization are becoming more prevalent in film production

Digitalization is playing a major role in the audiovisual sector, facilitating many steps in the process. However, this has been accompanied by an increase in emissions from the sector, as servers consume large amounts of energy. In general, the more the production process uses information technology, the more equipment, communication and processes are involved. It is important to note that any operation carried out on a computer consumes electricity and also generates heat.

Sustainable development, however, does not necessarily mean restrictions in the field of information technology or an increase in the overall costs of production companies.

In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Kajawood Studios has teamed up with the Tampere-based start-up Kuulea to harness the waste heat generated by the use of servers, or data centres, in its buildings. It is estimated that making a 90-minute animated film, for example, generates enough waste heat to heat a family of four for around 28 years.

Kajawood Studios aims to lead the way in sustainability

The APFI carbon footprint calculator may be a long time coming, but that hasn’t stopped the film industry from taking action. Kajawood Studios in Sotkamo, Finland, aims to reduce its carbon footprint with special cloud computing and heating solutions. This will allow the company to operate in line with the audiovisual sector’s sustainable development strategy.

The project involves the Tampere-based start-up Kuulea, whose CEO Kari Koivisto states that almost all the waste heat from the studio’s servers can be used to heat the company’s premises. During the summer, the same heat is stored in a geothermal well for later use.

The Kuulea system also allows Kajawood Studios to report to its customers on the carbon footprint of each animation and work process, for example. The studio’s on-site servers are used in particular for effects and post-production for film production. Kajawood Studios wants to be at the forefront of responsible film production. In addition to geothermal and data heating, the studio also uses solar energy for its energy and heating solutions.

Logistically, there are also fewer emissions, as the concept of the studio village is to locate equipment, services and facilities as close as possible, including accommodation and catering.

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